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I’ve been camping this weekend in the gorgeous New Forest on the south coast of England. Horses, cattle & pigs run free throughout the 200 square mile national park (it was originally a royal hunting park). It’s very popular for campers, cyclists and other outdoor pursuit type things. What a gorgeous place to be when the British weather is nice.

On Saturday my daughter and I had collected some flat stones from a nearby beech to skim on the little lake in our campsite. However the lake (pond really!) was being ‘guarded’ by a peculiar little boy of maybe 7 or 8 years old dressed in a pair of filthy grey shorts. He’d approached us when we were at the pond on the Friday night, but had been called away by his father before I’d gotten a good look at him. On Saturday however we got the whole performance.

He threw gravel & dirt at my legs and then proceeded to spit on me. I asked him to stop, but realised quickly that this was having no effect! We moved further and further around the pond away from him and eventually he stopped pursuing us. Then I watched as he approached a little boy who’d arrived and gave him the same treatment. This appeared to be his way of interacting with people. From his behaviour it seemed that he was non-verbal and I’m not sure how much he could comprehend, as he gave no indication of having heard me earlier. I left feeling sad for both him & his father.

Which brings me to the ‘autism is a gift’ bullshit you hear around the place. What about this situation was a ‘gift’? He wasn’t ‘quirky’, he was a severely disabled boy who’s going to need life long care.

The psychiatrists have done everyone a grave mis-service by lumping many disparate conditions, illnesses, states-of-being, personality types, quirks and disabilities all together and stating ‘these are all the same thing’. They are not.